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Free Range Friday: Secrets of a coffee-loving freelancer

Describing himself as 'coffee drinker and chief action man at Creative Knowledge', Tim Wilson (above) is a nomadic freelancer, who would far rather ply his trade in a busy café than a quiet home office. Here are his thoughts on the benefits of mobile working, the joys of a good cup of coffee and offers his tips for other would-be independent nomads.

I'm an independent worker and count myself lucky to be able to conduct my business as a nomad, with a laptop, a pair of headphones, a smartphone and a good cup of coffee.  I surround myself with a strong support network, many of whom do a similar kind of thing. In my opinion, why not support other independent businesses too? In fact, friends and acquaintances believe they will walk into an indie coffee shop in Birmingham with a fair chance that I will be found there. While such an arrangement may not be ideal to everyone, I find a few of my local independent coffee shops to be truly cracking work environments in which to get things done. I adhere to the mantra adorning The Coffice website: "They call it 'going for coffee'; We call it 'going to work'."

The benefits of 'coffices'

I am fortunate to have my coffices to work in. The boundaries and functions of the 'traditional office' are increasingly breaking down. In a day when we are increasingly connected through social media and working in the cloud, old school notions of an office environment are becoming blurred. Silent, stale working environments are not only boring, they are counterproductive. Sharing a desk or renting an office is arguably quite restrictive, not just in terms of time and cost, but crucially in terms of movement. Whether your office is rented or in your home, why not try and mix things up? Not all of us have the opportunity to be paid for working in a swanky office, but I think the nomads among us have the ultimate office as we can work anywhere and don't have the restriction of having to turn up at a fixed location.

Time for a change of scene?

As freelancers, we create our own creative and flexible work environments to suit our needs. Thinking beyond your 'regular' work environment and trying out somewhere different can engage the brain in new, vibrant and exciting ways. If you are active day to day, then changing your working environment could also have a big impact on your productivity and outlook.  If you are at home or in an office right now and crave a change of scenery, then why not build this into your schedule? Furthermore, while for many of you the office is still the correct environment in which to get the majority of your tasks done, why not experiment a bit and go out somewhere? Even just try it on a Friday afternoon to begin with. Do some Googling, enquire on Facebook and Twitter, look around you and you may quickly discover alternative places and communities in which to do work or find spaces in which to plan ideas. Everyone is different, and it is important to find what works for you. Go find your new, alternative and favourite places.

Tim's ten tips for nomadic workers

Tim Wilson plays the drums When he's not banging the drum for indpendent working, Tim's just, er, banging drums. Here are his tips for other would-be nomads on how to get the most out of mobile working:

1. Find 'free' internet.

Free is a relative term but for the price of buying a few coffees, cake and a sandwich, you can work away for as many hours as you fit in a new or different environment.

2. Silence is not golden.

According to the University of British Columbia, moderately loud environments make you more creative. I find silence is distracting and actually impedes creativity. The hum and buzz of a cafe is good for my workrate as it suggests movement and productivity alongside the constant whiff of roasted beans. Furthermore, you can also buy some headphones and create your own soundtrack to your working life.

3. Mix work with pleasure.

Blur the lines between work and pleasure. For some of you, work and pleasure/fun are the same thing. If so, brilliant. Nonetheless, if 20 minutes of surfing or tweeting gets you back in the mood for working then do it. Just be strict on your time management. Stick realistically to the time you give yourself and meet your deadlines.

4. Make your table a nice place to work.

You would do the same in your own office or home so treat your worktop in a coffee shop or other place the same way. Keep it simple. No clutter. No mess (cuddly toys optional).

5. Enjoy the travel time, too.

Think also of the transit time to and from a coffee shop as an opportunity to introduce another work discipline. For me, the added feeling of movement aligns with my productivity. Travelling is a sign of forward momentum and progress without the distractions that a stationary office or home provides.

6. Exploring is market research in itself.

Understand the DNA of a place. The more your explore, the more you will identify with your local environment, understand who the local talent is, who makes your local economy tick and those spaces where things can happen for your business.

7. Do your bit for local quality produce.

Consider supporting local, sustainable high quality produce and do your bit for the ecology around you. Quality is something to be proud to support.

8. Immerse yourself in the 'with' culture.

It's also about who you are 'with' that counts. Think about places that allow for open dialogue, human-scale conversations and the idea of 'co-'.  I inhabit communities that range from the people who frequent the shops regularly to the baristas and staff who you develop a rapport and friendship with.

9. Join/make a group.

Find your local Jelly or Likemind or other social gathering. You can even set up your own Meetup group or Jelly. If a gap is there to be filled, do everyone a favour and make it happen! The abundance of technology has made it so much easier to bring people together; find your places to chat, catch-up, develop ideas and collaborate.

10. Try co-working.

Co-working spaces are another solution for freelancers and independent professionals who the flexibility but feel they work better together than alone. The spaces offer you the opportunity to join a friendly and supportive community with a range of flexible rates and options. The co-working wiki contains further information along with a list of various spaces across the UK, as well as internationally. Whatever works for you, I wish you luck. Try being a nomad. Visit some new places. Sample some local quality produce. Take your laptop out and work in a wholly different environment. It could open your mind to business ideas that you never knew you had.

Hook up with Tim

Tim's a regular participant in our daily #watercoolermoment chats on Twitter and helped us organise the first #watercoolmoment live at Birmingham Jelly recently. You can find him there or follow him on Twitter at @timmy666.

Got an idea for Free Range Friday?

Free Range Friday is all about the inspirational, insightful, innovative and just downright interesting things that small businesses do "“ whether that's a clever product, a unique approach to marketing or just something that makes you smile. If you've got something you'd like to contribute to Free Range Friday, then please email Simon, the Enterprise Nation editor.
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